Growing a Green IT Strategy

Currently, carbon emissions from IT and communication technologies represent 2% of global CO2 output, which puts information technology (IT) on par with the aviation industry in terms of carbon pollution. With an average increase in emissions of roughly 12% per year, IT has become the fastest growing industry for contributing to the carbon content in our Earth’s atmosphere. However, where consumption is highest, you can also typically find the greatest opportunities to conserve.
Businesses of all sizes are starting to turn to their IT departments for strategies to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving services and cutting costs. Being identified as one of the most successful arenas to adopt efficiencies and to improve services through sustainability strategies, corporate IT departments are now enabled to emerge as the green thought leaders within their companies.

There’s a solid business case for adopting a Green IT strategy and getting started is well within the reach of what companies of all sizes can afford. The U.S. EPA estimates that 20% of the energy demands in a typical office building are derived from the power needs of PC related office equipment. Just leveraging the existing power management features of a typical Windows operating system on most personal computers can save companies roughly $30 to $40 per month, per device.
Although shifting from desktop computers to laptop machines requires an initial investment in the hardware, the lesser energy needs of laptops result in energy cost savings as well as environmental benefits. Recent figures indicate that if 200,000 desktop computers were replaced by laptop machines, we would save 40,000 metric tons of carbon pollution, which is the equivalent output of 8,000 cars or, 4,000 homes.
Developing your plan
Central to designing and launching a successful Green IT strategy is having an accurate understanding of your current impact on the environment from your computing practices and systems. Begin by creating an inventory of all computing assets including network hardware, servers, storage devices, personal computers, laptops, external monitors, printers and scanners. The next step is to estimate your total energy consumption through reviewing past bills and supplement your findings with the estimated energy consumption data from the Department of Energy. In addition to cataloging equipment and historic consumption data, be sure to document your company’s disposal practices and the average replacement schedule of IT equipment.
Acting upon your baseline energy assessment is the next step. One of your greatest opportunities is to implement a network PC power management system. Although servers and their associated cooling needs represent 23% of all IT energy consumption, PC-related power represents a remarkable 40%. Developing standards for local measures that employees should adhere to such as shutting down machines and monitors will also save costs and green your business practices.
Extending the longevity of your assets and ensuring that they are disposed of appropriately are the next key elements of your plan. Getting more from your existing resources can be accomplished through designing measures that extend the their current replacement schedule. In designing these measures, the question to ask is, “How can I better use my resources to ensure they last longer?” as well as, “Now that this equipment has served it’s purpose within my department, is there any place within the organization that can make use of it’s services?” When you are certain that any equipment is ready for removal, ensure that the goods are channeled through a validated equipment-recycling program or through the manufacturer’s disposal program.
Tools and Resources for Getting Started:
Desktop and server energy savings calculator
Estimate the savings that can come from power management tools
Find ENERGY START laptops/notebooks

David received his undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Sciences from James Madison University and completed an M.A. in International Development at Clark University. With over 10 years of experience in the field of environmental sustainability, David has worked for organizations such as Environmental Defense Fund, USDA, USGS and the Smithsonian Institute.Currently, David is a NetImpact member and an MBA candidate at the Presidio School of Management where his research focus is on developing market incentives for investment in environmental sustainability.